More fighter feedback

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yurch
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More fighter feedback

Postby yurch » Sat May 23, 2015 4:12 am

There's so many balance directions fighters/gunships can be taken to, but it all hinges on this fundamental question. How fast should fighters be, both as a minimum and a maximum?

I'm just going to call everything a fighter, but obviously gunships are included.

Fighters fall into several speed categories:

A fighter that is 3.0 speed or greater:
- Gets hit 2% of the time by rapid fire weapons
- Only feasibly gets hit by missiles when painted/limpeted

A fighter that is less than 3.0:
- Gets hit at increasing rates by rapid fire fighter pulse weapons. The ramp up as you get slower is VERY HIGH, which I can't stress enough. Weapon balance here comes down to tenths of a speed unit.

A fighter that is less than 2.0:
- Starts getting hit by cruiser level weaponry.
- Gets hit by fighter pulse weapons upwards of 33%, which may be several times a second in a squad fight.
- Might actually get hit by the flak cannon

The problem now, I think - many players are trying to make a fighter, ending up with a 1.6 speed foray, and are subsequently getting trashed. It doesn't help that I'm casually swatting aside the example opponents in the stock missions with 1.7 speed weapons. Against competent opponents, the successful fighter speeds right now are multi-engine and prohibitive configurations; frills like targeting modules or multiple armor slots are just not possible. This is unintuitive to a new player - why is all of that extra stuff there?

The existence of 3.0+ class of fighter is also why you simply can't have untethered interceptor fighters in GSB without support from the rest of the fleet. Your units will end up chasing armored 3.27 speed rocket fighters in some corner for half the match (or to their deaths) before you kill any significant number of them.

Having more of 3.0+ fighters than normal is the Yootani bonus - they can even pull off torpedo fighters at 3.0 speeds. This is through stacking low power use engines on top of hull speed bonuses.

It seems engines just aren't significant enough, with reasonably fast single-engine designs an absolute rarity. Could it be agreed on that fighters shouldn't be going below 2.0 unless you mishandle their design greatly?

It's possible by manipulating thrust/weight values and ratios that we can make a single engine give a better return. In fact, this might be preferred, as this doesn't completely invalidate existing designs. Thrust is obvious to increase, but I would actually recommend increasing weight on engines to some degree as well. Heavy engines with poorer thrust/weight ratios don't overstack as well and are less prone to abuse. Additionally, when engine proportional weight is higher to the rest of the craft, it can be used as a means to keep the speed floor higher.

Other stuff:

Nonfighter things that kill fighters (listed for reference):
-Tractors. They don't have any other purpose but they're really cheap and will often pay for themselves after a single shot. I would like to discourage these.
-Painter/missile setup. These require some fleet coordination, and the use of frigates, cruisers, or destroyers for the first step.
-Limpets. Functionality similar to above two points.
-Sudden unplanned carrier disassembly.
-Massed fire. Some of the faster firing weapons or volley weapons can become a significant source of attrition.
-Tracking boosts. You can pull off some disturbingly high accuracy with the use of target boost modules, which appear to stack forever with no penalty, and can be further augmented with destroyer recon beams. I'm not aware of a fleet that uses this seriously, but it's possible to boost weapons like the cruiser pulse laser or the cruiser pulse cannon to the point where they'll hit 3+ speed fighters at nontrivial rates. Cruiser defense laser can exceed 50%.


Concerns and frustrations of a fighter admiral:
-Units don't "cautious" retreat on armor damage, only on hull loss.
-Units cannot be expected to behave intelligently if given single orders (like "attack destroyers", only) after their target is dead.
-Units are at great risk at the most miniscule damage to engines without armor. A single hit has a chance of dooming the fighter.
-Gunners prefer slower, larger units. It's very difficult to provide orders for multirole units, like a missile gunship with a pulse sidearm, that may want to attack large and small targets alike.
-Module space is at an absolute premium, and utility like targeters, extra fuel tanks or turn-rate engines are forced to take a back seat as a matter of survivability.
-Fighter discipline is hard to maintain. Larger squad sizes may alleviate this with 'stick together' orders. Is there a reason 16/10 is the max?
-Resistance armoring is impossible due to existing weapon types. Armor is used as a second health bar.

Notable weapons:
Shield support beams put destroyers on the map and are keeping them in the present metagame for the foreseeable future, with whole fleets being designed around them. I think fighters need something like this. The ideal candidate is the torpedo - it is a mighty weapon even in it's current state, but it has difficult logistics. My favorite torpedo bomber at the moment is actually a yootani gunship with four of the best engines in the game and two maximum fuel tanks - that's what it currently takes to get this monster weapon system going.

Most other races will struggle to get torpedo fighters above 2.0 speed with a full fuel tank, and most likely a with very poor maneuverability. This can be pushed slightly faster using the additional power of single-weapon gunship hulls, but not much. The other problem is fuel consumption - I have no idea how fuel is calculated (a function of weight?), but it certainly hits torpedo units the hardest. Target uptime is very, very poor.

The light pulse gun would be fantastic as a sidearm option for gunships. You might not want to do this, as it might be too fantastic.

The dogfight missile might be going so fast that it's missing targets. I'm noticing an unusually low hitrate with this weapon for its 3.0 tracking.

The sniper laser with it's 2.6 tracking, 100% armor damage, and 8 armor penetration - completely removes any reason to take the beam weapons. This is a shame, because the beams look neat. Bring back the beams!

The gunship disruptor bomb has the same difficulties of the torpedo, with the added unfortunate distinction of being a disruption weapon. This weapon might be better if torpedoes get better, it might not.

Anti-shield bomb has no discernible use.

And finally: Flak.
The frigate/destroyer flak cannon is one of the stranger interpretations of flak that I've seen; luckily this weapon has such an abysmal performance that changing it around will ruffle very few feathers.

For starters, it only explodes if it strikes a unit. This is compounded by the very poor 1.6 tracking; this weapon often requires a tractor beam to hold a host fighter down to even start the madness. The strange explosions appear to damage frigates and destroyers underneath shields, making them a friendly fire liability. My test frigates need armor and repair mods to survive trials.

I don't think this weapon should continue its present state; Furthermore I am uncomfortable with unconstrained AOE mechanics in this type of game.

Let's instead re-purpose this weapon as a suppressive one. My initial thought is something that does a very small amount of guaranteed damage to up to 3 targets at a time, regardless of speed. The idea here is to do just enough damage to fighters to trigger cautious orders to force them to flee back to the carrier. This is a soft countermeasure, and not a hard, attritional one - I get to ultimately keep my fighters and you get to lessen their influence in a quick manner. There's some counterplay if I decide to armor significantly or set orders to ignore damage.

I don't know if GSB can do fractional amounts of damage - fighter engines range from 3-17 hitpoints, so we need a gentle amount - it may also have to have something like 1 damage on a 50% innate miss-rate if not. We want to avoid a situation where it can be stacked into something vicious.

We could also go for something gamier with the same intended goal, like a fuel sucking explosion or accuracy debuffing clouds.

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Re: More fighter feedback

Postby Deeps » Sat May 23, 2015 4:26 pm

Love all the ideas, agree with all the points. Really I'm just a fanboy of your fighter prowess.

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Re: More fighter feedback

Postby yurch » Sun May 24, 2015 1:52 am

A fighter example:

Thrustmax engine is 30 thrust, with weight of 3. Speed of any given single-engine craft will therefore be 30/(3+weight), with weight being everything else but the engine.

I'm arbitrarily choosing the Slingshot class hull, which has a starting power of 2.75.

A medium power plant, a small fuel tank, and a light pulse laser comes out to a very light 7.1 weight.
A small power plant, a full size fuel tank, a torpedo and an armor plate comes out to a punishing 23.2 weight.

The disparity here is pretty enormous. Torpedo weight probably needs to be brought down before any attempts at changing engines - any single engine powerful enough to drive a torpedo at a decent speed is either abusive in the hands of other fighter types or easily weighs as much as a frigate thruster.

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Re: More fighter feedback

Postby Deeps » Sun May 24, 2015 6:04 am

Yeah that's a real issue. I pretty much stick to Gunships now, at least you can get a Torp out there going above 3.0 speed that way.

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Re: More fighter feedback

Postby cliffski » Sun May 24, 2015 9:21 am

Interesting. So as immediately actionable things, you would like to see torpedo weight reduced. I deliberately wanted 'bombers' to be slow, to convey the power of the weapon they were carrying, have I just gone overboard? :D

Also, I think it might be time to accept that the cautious order should be taking a combination of armor strength and hull into account as one value, in all cases. Any objection to that?

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Re: More fighter feedback

Postby Archduke Astro » Sun May 24, 2015 9:31 am

cliffski wrote:I deliberately wanted 'bombers' to be slow, to convey the power of the weapon they were carrying, have I just gone overboard? :D

Yes! Fighter torpedoes have been too heavy ever since GSB1. Bombers get sliced-up due to low top speed unless nearly all of their module slots are devoted to nothing but engines. Even that's not always an air-tight defense. Art needs to give way to practicality here.

cliffski wrote:Also, I think it might be time to accept that the cautious order should be taking a combination of armor strength and hull into account as one value, in all cases. Any objection to that?

That's a good start. I wonder if other possible fighter-centric tweaks to the Caution order might also be desirable right now.
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Re: More fighter feedback

Postby Cyk0 » Sun May 24, 2015 11:13 am

About the flack, im not sure they should be restricted in the number of targets they can hit.

They are a destroyer weapon so they are on a platform that encourages combined arms. Ideally it should be a weapon that is good when facing swarms of strike craft.

I think relatively small changes can get ot there...

Keep the "bad" tracking but make the round explode anywa, so that it will be bad at taking out individual fightera but still able to hit some in a dence cloud.

But to stop this from being a hard counter to strikecraft (and your own destroyers) it pitifull penetration. Incentiveice armoured strike craft, yay! Rock paper sissors yay!

Basically if you what temporary protection against it go with the lightest armor. (it will eventually be worn down by lucky pens) and if you want to do long time action against a flack focused fleet heavy armored foghter would actually be the right build to use (finally a role for them)

Heck that might even open a role for armored beam space superiority gunships for use vs strike craft targets in a flack environment. (the target would be armored and in a slow enough speed band)

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Re: More fighter feedback

Postby Galactic Hunter » Sun May 24, 2015 11:45 am

Additional frustration of a (would be) fighter admiral:

- My carriers won't stay out of the battle. Carriers should behave like Aircraft Carriers do in conventional warfare, that is, NOT close with battleships, destroyers and other gunned up ships, and try and stay at a range that allows their fighters to go off and strike the enemy, and return for supplies. The ideal range would be IN EXCESS of 1,500 (so no guns can hit them, but might be adjustable up to 10,000 or more, depending on the fuel that you have in your fighters. A carrier that at least tries to stay more than 2,000 away from any enemy ships (not fighters or gunships) would be fine. If it is too slow to outrun them, well, they will close and it will get what it deserves.

I imagine a GUI with a line and two sliders (minimum range (below which you should be turning and running) and maximum range (beyond which you should be turning and closing with the enemy). That would also be good for all my other ships, frankly.

The current behaviour (of closing to 1,000, then slowly turning and being destroyed) is not encouraging fighter fleets.

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Re: More fighter feedback

Postby yurch » Sun May 24, 2015 6:39 pm

cliffski wrote:Interesting. So as immediately actionable things, you would like to see torpedo weight reduced. I deliberately wanted 'bombers' to be slow, to convey the power of the weapon they were carrying, have I just gone overboard? :D
It's not possible to get torpedos above a 2.0 speed on a lot of the fighter hulls, which leaves a lot of races out of luck - they aren't fielding fighter offenses because everything depends on that weapon. Even with gunships, none of these designs can fit armor.

Going back to engines: Apologies, math ahead.

We already have a cap on speed in the form of the thrust/weight ratio of each engine. This value is 10 for the thrustmax, and 12.3 for the yootani hurricane. This is a theoretical maximum immediately cut by the need to fit fuel tanks, power, etc, but it is important to keep in mind. Exceedingly lightweight fighters disproportionately gain from buffs to engines or weight cuts because of this.

(The Thrustmax is the big grandaddy green engine with poor maneuverability.)

Here is a graph of 3 thrustmax engines, with x being weight of the rest of the craft. 3.0 is our arbitrary speed sweetspot:
http://wolfr.am/4~sNyWFi
(note: script blockers screw with Wolfram for some reason)

Our 7 weight fighter from before comes out just under par. 2 engines get to you to about 14 weight. 3 get you to about 21. An unarmed 4 weight fighter will scream along at 4.29 with a single engine.

By increasing the thrust by 1.6x while increasing the weight by 3x, you can flatten out the sharp top speed of weaponless fighters without change for a 7-weight fighter, while also slightly increasing the amount of speed gained for heavier designs:
http://wolfr.am/4~sOPu5K

Here's three of the new engine:
http://wolfr.am/4~sQwayV

Our 7 weight fighter comes out again under par. 2 engines get you to 14 weight. 3 get you to 21. Same as before. So what's the difference?

On the top end of things, the unarmed example now goes at 3.9 or so; if you were to somehow get 2 normal thrustmax engines on a 7 weight fighter, it would be going at 4.6 speed. Do this with our new engine and it caps at 3.8 or so.

At this point we can start looking at a safer actual top-end speed buff, which would come in the form of reducing weight of modules or further increasing thrust on engines.

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Re: More fighter feedback

Postby Alekan » Mon May 25, 2015 5:18 am

IMO all Fighters/Gunships should operate in the 2.50 – 4.00 speed range. This is high enough above the tracking of Cruiser Pulse to require anti-fighter systems like Limpets and Tractors. Right now Torpedo/Missile bombers are too slow – they are getting obliterated by Cruiser Pulse Lasers and other heavy weapons.

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Re: More fighter feedback

Postby cliffski » Mon May 25, 2015 6:14 pm

Ok I've just checked in a change to the code that means the cautious order (for all ships, not just fighters), works on combined armor+hitpoints, rather than just hull hitpoints, which should improve fighter survivability AND encourage slightly the use of armor on fighters perhaps?

On to more improvements:

Looking at the fighter/gunship torpedo, it has a base damage of 21, 2.33 times the damage of a conventional fighter missile, although its fire rate is 3.8 times slower. My rough calcs give it a 5.5DPS vs 4.5 for a standard fighter missile, so its a 'bit' better, but it also has proper shield penetration (28 vs 16), so on that measure its not a bad deal. It *is* a bit slower, and thus more vulnerable, plus it is double the cost , and after all this, it is THREE TIMES the weight sooo...

I'm thinking it makes sense to reduce the torpedo weight from 15 to 10.

I know this isn't a solution to everything, but with so many ideas, and issues being brought up, I'm looking for concrete actionable changes that I can make which everyone can agree is at least a move towards better balance. Does anyone actually object to that change?

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Re: More fighter feedback

Postby Deeps » Tue May 26, 2015 3:37 pm

I think you picked two very good pinch points that everyone can agree on. With those two down I'd say that engines, specifically non-Yootani engines, are next in line. You can make a ton of very good, reasonable changes to orders or weapon modules but it will still be insane to field anything but a Yootani fighter fleet, mostly because of Spincaster Engines.

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Re: More fighter feedback

Postby yurch » Fri Jun 05, 2015 6:54 pm

The torpedo change I would say is positive, although I'm surprised there wasn't a weight drop of the disruptor as well. I've been trying to use the inferior other races to see if I can come up with decent designs, but I'm coming up short in a lot of ways:

  • The best T/W engine to use for other races is the thrustmax. The problem with this engine is the turnrate is poor, and the power usage is high. This might sound like an acceptable tradeoff, but we're just being forced to use it in multiples just to get heavy fighters moving at an acceptable rate.
  • Fighters are incredibly constrained by available starting power. It's possible the power plants are just too heavy - just using one requires an additional engine to get speed up to par, and it feels like we're just penalized two slots in the process.
  • Gunships have a turnrate penalty compared to fighters. This is further exacerbated by their generally increased weight and loss of engine options. Using turnrate engines (if you can even fit one) gives a poor return and increases the weight even more.
  • The slow-down-to-turn AI has gunships slowing down to the point where their collision kicks in. They are bouncing off or getting stuck against cruisers and dreadnoughts. This looks awful.
  • The gunship-only engines are terrible. Hyperwarp uses 7 power where the highest power plant only gives 4.


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